Born out of collaboration between Keith Sims and Tashina Southard, Half Minute Horror began as a way to continually produce work. It embraces moments of terror and challenges writers, directors, and editors with storytelling under extreme time constraints. Just as the title suggests, their horror films are thirty seconds short. Their tag line: Everyone has a fear; everyone has a scary story…
Garden Spices Magazine’s Managing Editor Pratik Mamtora interviewed the creators of Half Minute Horror on Thursday, September 3rd 2015. Here’s their Candid Conversation…
Garden Spices (GS) How did the 30 sec idea take form?
Shina: “I saw a writing prompt online to write a 30 second horror story. It was referring to prose, a story that could be read in 30 seconds. Since I write scripts I tried to come up with half page scripts. Typically, 1 page equals to 1 minute.”
Keith: “I have been doing film production for almost 30 years and have basically done almost every time duration except for 30 seconds. I thought it would be a great exercise.”
GS: Why did you pick the horror genre?
Shina: “I’ve always been a huge horror fan. Even when I write non-horror it skews a little darker. It’s an added bonus that horror fans are some of the most loyal in the world. There’s a camaraderie amongst horror fans.”
Keith: “My first feature was horror, but I am more drawn to Sci-Fi and historic / period pieces… but again, I thought it would be fun.”
GS: Who are the creators and crew? Who designed the logo?
Shina: “We have so many creators – there’s Kayla Mitchel, our Key Makeup Artist. We work with a handful of other makeup and prosthetics people as well. Scott Turner has written several fantastic scripts for us. Keith is our primary Director of Photography. Really, we work with too many amazing people to list, but check out the credits on our episodes page. We’ve been blessed with so many talented people.”
Keith: “Tashina and I are the Producers / Exec Producers, so ultimately the buck stops with us. We also make sure that the brand and the “look” meets our brand quality. Our crew is comprised of experienced feature personnel – mostly in our Hair & Makeup Department. We have a good amount of film students from the University of North Alabama that come and assist (and even act) in the productions. I did the logo. I wanted something that would work well in many applications and something that had a little aggression to it, so that’s why I went with the fangs. It hopefully tells the story of what we’re about.”
GS: What prep needs to be done before the shoot?
Shina: “Before a shoot someone on our team has to write the script. Then we cast it, make a shot list and production breakdown. We have to make arrangements for locations, props, special effects. Often building the practical effects ourselves. Immediately before we have to load the equipment truck with lights, C-stands, cameras, and audio equipment and transport it to the location. Seriously, we’ve worked on some 30 second shorts for months before we roll on the first shot.”
Keith: “Most of the time is spent working on the schedules for the actors and the locations. Since we’re unable to pay our talent, we need to respect their time. We have several writers who write for us along with Shina and myself. We’re working on the scripts, crewing the shoot, etc…”
GS: What does a production scene look like?
Shina: “Keith and I are basically a two person film crew. We often have helpers, but not always. We have great makeup artists – while they are making everyone look good, which sometimes means look dead, injured, undead, or monstrous. We get our lighting setup with any helpers we have that day. Once our talent is out of makeup the director for that week takes time to get all of the actors on the same page. Then we get our first shot, change everything around and do it again.”
Keith: “We have such a small crew, so we are able to move relatively quickly between setups. A setup is a scene or sequence being shot. Most of our scripts have about 3-4 setups. It’s usually just Shina and myself who do all the work for the production apart from the Hair & Makeup Department.”
GS: What is the most challenging aspect of the shoot? What is easy and fun?
Shina: “Getting everyone we need in the same place at the same time is the most challenging. Falling asleep after a long shoot is easy. Fun… We work with amazing people. I can’t stress that enough. I think I have the most fun watching all the diverse talents we are blessed to work with come together.”
Keith: “Define challenging! Challenging can mean a bunch of things in the HMH world. It can mean the physical side of production – moving of equipment to set and on set, it can mean the mental side as well – shooting long into the night can really test your mettle in this business; always knowing you are the ones who will have to transport all the gear back to our storage location. It’s exhausting at times. Then there’s the challenge of post production / editing the episode. We have to be very judicial in really boiling down the story to it’s very essence. What is the least to tell the most. So that can be very challenging at times. Not really sure there’s an easy part!”
GS: How does HMH relate to Halloween?
Shina: “We scare people all year!”
Keith: “It really is a year-round endeavor. We all, cast & crew, love Halloween. So, we basically get to have Halloween all year!”
GS: Do the stories share a moral or some form of wisdom?
Shina: “Sometimes, but not always. Our Halloween special last year touched on bullying and feeling excluded for being different. We’ve written and filmed some shorts that specifically dealt with depression (Kid’d show) , child abuse (My Friend Bob), addiction (Chasing Demons) and self destructive behaviors (The Gamblers). We recently released an episode inspired by Project Unbreakable, trying to talk about the real life horror of sexual violence (Caught). But we have also made some just to be funny. Like Suckr which is about three generations of vampires at family dinner.”
Keith: “Some do. We explore different genres and nuances of horror… psychological, the physical, the emotional. So there are layers in some episodes that hopefully will leave the audience to think and ponder. Some we leave up to the viewer to decide or cast their opinion upon. Some are just straight forward pop & shock. Some are funny and playful. We just want to entertain!”
GS: The veil between the living and dead with be thin soon… Any specials we can look forward to?
Keith: “Hmm… Shina? How much do we tell?” [Wink]
Shina: “It would be pretty hard to top last year’s Halloween Special ???. Our first anniversary of HMH falls the week before, so we want to end it with a bang, we might see some familiar faces. Outside of our films, we’re hosting a Halloween Party, Spookeasy, that will be pretty special.” [Tickets on sale now.]
GS: Where do you see HMH in a year? 5 years? 10 years?
Shina: “I’d love to see some of our existing shorts developed into longer form. In one year I’d love to see our feature length anthology finished and released. In five, I’d love to see us expanding our existing work and finding new platforms to tell scary stories. In ten, who knows? I really feel like the sky’s the limit. We started this with the goal of producing a short film a week for a year. I think we both thought we would fail at that. We believe we’d still produce great work, just maybe not 52 in a year. Part of me can’t believe we’ve pulled that off so far. We’re on number 47 and counting. If we can do that, we can do so much more.”
Keith: “I personally would love to see HMH financed and an established product. We have SO many ideas and such a great cast & crew, I’d love for all of us to actually make a living off of this. I’d love to do some features and also really help students and up and coming filmmakers out in some way.”
GS: What do you want viewers to take with them?
Shina: “There’s a great quote from Stephen King that I love. “We make up horrors to help us cope with real ones.” I think that’s part of the reason horror endures as a genre. There are so many real life things to be scared of in the world. I think most people are a little afraid all the time and try to ignore it. For half a minute, they can acknowledge part of their fear.”
Keith: “I want to allow them some escapism – even for that brief moment. I want them to laugh and share the experience with their friends and family. Maybe have them come away with some questions or another way to view something – some angle, metaphorically speaking, that they haven’t thought about.”
Here’s a trick or treat from Half Minute Horror‘s Youtube channel:
– Interview in collaboration with Pratik Mamtora for Garden Spices Magazine
Tashina Southard is the Series Creator, Writer, Producer, Director of Half Minute Horror. She is also an artist, and filmmaker. She has worked behind the scenes on productions since 2009. She had written, directed, and co-produced two short films in 2014, “Heartbeat” and “The Wishing Well.”
Keith Sims is the Writer, Producer, Director, Editor and Director of Photography for Half Minute Horror. Keith has over 20+ years of experience in Media Arts as Cinematographer, Director, Producer and First Assistant Director, and is fluent in all aspects of Production – concept to creation – and can execute any size production. Keith’s first feature film, “Sweet Tooth”, was shot in 1996. He has directed and produced several shorts and “indie” projects throughout the years. Keith also is an avid photographer & composer / musician – he wrote and performs the Half Minute Horror theme song. For the past four years Keith has owned and operated a very successful full-service advertising agency, Wellspring Advertising.